WHO WE ARE:
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) monitors all legislation affecting veterans, alerts VFW membership to key legislation under consideration and actively lobbies Congress and the administration on veterans issues. With VFW’s own priority goals in mind, combined with the support of 2 million members of VFW and its auxiliaries, our voice on “the Hill” cannot be ignored!
Friday, March 28, 2014
VFW Calls on Congress to Extend VRAP
This week your VFW joined Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., the American Legion, and The Retired Enlisted Association, or TREA, for a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, calling on Congress to extend the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP. VRAP is an education benefit program for unemployed veterans ages 35-60 that the VFW helped to commission through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. Through VRAP, older veterans who are ineligible for other VA education programs can receive up to a year of Montgomery GI Bill-style benefits to participate in a certificate or associate’s degree program in a high demand industry. VRAP was authorized to deliver training to 99,000 eligible veterans over two years – an authorization that is set to expire on March 31.
Brownley recently introduced the Help Hire Our Heroes Act, a bill that would extend VRAP by six months, allowing veterans currently enrolled in the program to use more of their available benefits and offering an opportunity for more eligible veterans to enroll in training. Original co-sponsors Reps. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., also joined the press conference to explain why extending the program was important to them. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Ryan Gallucci touted the merits of VRAP and called on Congress to quickly pass an extension.
“VRAP is an example of good governance because it offers a hand-up to unemployed veterans, helping them acquire the skills they need to compete in today’s job market,” Gallucci said. “Veterans are motivated, hard-working and resilient; we know that companies want to hire them. VRAP is reinforcing this, but we’re running out of time.”
Gallucci pointed out that VA still has resources to pay additional trainees, but that statute dictates that payments are no longer authorized beyond March 31. Recently, the White House issued guidance for VA to pay out as much of the benefit as possible to help currently-enrolled veterans finish the semester, but the VFW would prefer to see Congress extend the program to allow new veterans to sign up for classes into next fall.
Through the VFW’s new network of student veteran liaisons across the country, the VFW has heard consistent praise for VRAP, with many student veteran advocates asking what the VFW is doing to help extend the program. However, the VFW has also heard concerns from the same advocates over the strict VRAP guidelines on full-time status and school eligibility that have kept many veterans from enrolling or completing programs.
To the VFW, the approach to extending and improving VRAP is multifaceted. First, the VFW wants to pass Brownley’s legislation, extending the program for six months. Next, the VFW wants to reauthorize the program for an additional two years, allowing another 99,000 veterans to enroll. Finally, the VFW wants to improve access to the program by allowing trainees to drop below full-time student status, and allowing four-year schools with qualifying high demand programs to enroll beneficiaries.
To date VA has approved more than 125,000 veterans to participate in VRAP, but only 72,000 veterans have enrolled in classes. The VFW wants to see every eligible veteran have the opportunity to use VRAP to hone their job skills and find meaningful careers. Check back regularly for updates on the VFW’s efforts to extend this critical benefit program.
(Image: VFW Deputy Legislative Director Ryan Gallucci explains why the VFW wants to extend VRAP during yesterday's press conference on Capitol Hill. Photo by Steven Jensen.)